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Wednesday
Apr162014

April Showers: Pulp Fiction

the waterworks continue

Will you give me oral pleasure?

I was casually skimming through Pulp Fiction the other day and watched scenes from the Bruce Willis portion. It's the storyline that's easiest to forget since it feels less energized by Tarantino's then shockingly fresh auteurial voice and rapid pop-culture infused dialogue and more like a general riff on cliché movie tropes (the boxer who won't take a fall, an antihero on the run, etcetera)... well at least until The Gimp shows up. But watching it again, I was reminded that Quentin Tarantino's movies used to be more firmly rooted in accessible humanity. We didn't know it at the time of course because his work was then so "new" and stylized that it didn't feel intimate in the way the movies have taught us to expect. But post-Jackie Brown his work became increasingly cartoonish (this is not always a bad thing: I sometimes think Kill Bill Vol 1 is his best film) and though his characters are still deeply memorable they're more like "characters" than people...

Consider the post-coital (post-69?) shower sequence between Butch (Willis) and his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros). It has its idiosyncracies to be sure. 

Butch: I think I cracked a rib?
Fabienne: By giving me oral pleasure?
Butch: No, retard. From the fight.

Butch launches into a non PC imitation of his girlfriend as said retard. This infuriates her as she aggressively towel dries her hair. He can't find a dry towel and makes the only kind of apology a guy like him who loves teasing his woman would make.

Butch: Will you hand me a dry towel Miss Beautiful Tulip?
Fabienne: Oh, I like that. I like being called Tulip. Tulip is much better than mongoloid.
Butch: I didn't call you a mongoloid, I called you a retard. And I took it back. 

Fabienne: Butch...
Butch: Yes, Lemon Pie.
Fabienne: Where are we going to go?

He sits down to towel off out of frame (the frame is much wider than this with more room on the left - I made a mistake in photoshop so I apologize for the incorrect aspect ratio). She brushes her teeth as the conversation turns serious. She's worried -- without stating it directly -- that they're now on the run and he gently distracts her with terms of endearments (he prefers edible names... which explains the oral pleasure) and impromptu Spanish lessons in case they head south.

You'll be my little mamacita in no time."

This flirtatious interlude in the bathroom is, in retrospect considering where Tarantino has gone, surprisingly calm and even sweet. It's recognizably human-scaled. It's the calm before the storm and it's beautifully judged.

Do you wish Tarantino would do something more intimate again? Do you ever think about this spoke in Pulp Fiction's plot wheel?

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Reader Comments (10)

I mean, I'm of the "Jackie Brown is his best film" camp, so yes. Very much yes.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Roger Avery's primary contribution to Pulp is the Butch section. Hence the wildly different tone it takes from the Tarantino centered universes.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I miss the Tarantino of Pulp and Jackie, and I don't think we're gonna get him back.
And this scene was very important in my relationship (both respectful and lustful) to Bruce Willis

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Jackie Brown is his best film because it's his most intimate.

And Kill Bill Vol. II is very intimate too. It's about a relationship. That long flute sequence proves this point.

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I always thought these scenes between them were really hot -- iso intimate and interesting.

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

His first few films were movies that were clearly in the real world starring real people, inspired by movies and music and all that pop culture fluff that he grew up loving.

At one point, he got so much money and power that he could just MAKE those movies he loved. So now all his films take place in MOVIEWORLD, and he's got his 1970s stunt picture, a kung-fu epic, and the world war 2 movie, and a Leone Western. And its not that those aren't great in their own way(Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill are my favorites), but there's a distinct difference between his films before and after Kill Bill.

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny

Come on guys! You complain when fantastic directors don't work enough but when one does and the quality isn't as high as Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (extraordinarily high benchmarks) you still complain. Be happy he's working so much. His Kill Bill and Basterds films are very very good and I'm glad he made them

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Anonny-

We just like to bitch, it's the American way :-D

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Maria de Medeiros... love her! Charismatic in "Pulp Fiction" and magnetic in "Henry & June". I wish she would invest a bit more in Hollywood. There are few actresses with such a talent...

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Bruce Willis is my favorite character in Pulp Fiction, exactly because of the intimacy.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

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